Discover Finland’s quirky capital and get a taste of Nordic luxury
Today, we want fresh travel experiences and stays that come with a buzzing social scene. Marriott International know this and the latest addition to their Tribute Portfolio, Hotel Katajanokka is exactly onboard with what we’re looking for. The hotel boasts everything we want from a stay, along with a few extra twists.
Destinations like Alcatraz Island in San Francisco and Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour National Park have long fascinated and attracted us, but Helsinki takes it one step further with Hotel Katajanokka. This is one place you certainly won’t object to doing some time in! On the urban island of Katajanokka, moments away from Helsinki, a historic former prison has been transformed into a luxury hotel for a unique stay behind bars. The building once housed high-profile male and female prisoners who were held there whilst waiting to go to trial. During the renovation of the building, it was discovered that the prisoners had dug a tunnel – not escape, but instead to connect the men’s and women’s areas. Whilst you’re there, sleep in a former cell, eat in the prison canteen, and make your mark on the building just like the inmates of its past. Don’t worry though, during the building’s transformation, more windows have been added as well as stylish suites, so you won’t ever want to escape!
Head down to Hotel Katajanokka’s basement where the former prison canteen has been transformed into Linnankellari. Serving up delicious Nordic-inspired dishes, you ought to go for a meal as out of the ordinary as your stay and try specialities like grilled reindeer with kasha, gruyere cheese and cranberries, or tuck into a ‘Jail Burger’ that gives a playful nod to the hotel’s past. When in the basement, make sure to experience the isolation cell that remains untouched with graffiti from prisoners scrawled on the walls that you can add to.
Tanner is set in Kallio, the Northern Quarter of Helsinki, which is a creative hub for the city’s young people. The perfect laidback lunch spot, pop to Tanner for great pizza and sharing plates to dig into with friends and plan your travels around Helsinki.
The elegant Aino is all about traditional Finnish favourites. Locals head here to take it back to their roots, and travellers are able to get a true taste of the country. Opt for a small booth in the brick cellar for added privacy or dine at street-level with a lively atmosphere and views of Esplanade Park. It’s all about the fish here of course, so try pan-fried pike and pike terrine with roasted Jerusalem artichoke, beurre blanc sauce. A bustling shopping street and buzzing market square are just around the corner and make for a must-visit before your meal at Aino.
Explore the City
Take to the streets with a stroll around Helsinki. On your travels, look out for art installations and sculptures dotted around the city, along with Uspenski Cathedral set upon a hillside overlooking the city.
Amos Rex Museum
Get a dose of culture in downtown Helsinki at underground museum Amos Rex. From the surface, the museum’s domes are a playground for selfie-snappers and climbing children, but beneath the surface, Amos Rex is a powerhouse for contemporary art. Subterranean digital art instillations and cinema Bio Rex make this a must-visit on your Helsinki trip. Let Amos Rex whet your appetite and then venture to the nearby Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum, the Helsinki Art Museum and Kunsthalle Helsinki.
Old Market Hall
Step inside this quaint market hall for sights, smells and tastes aplenty. There are fish mongers galore here with everything from cured fish to caviar. Pick up treats like handcrafted chocolates at Kultasuklaa, tuck into a warming bowl of salmon soup from Soppakeittiö or grab a healthy, organic juice from Vegetaari.
Helsinki’s bar scene is having a moment. The bars in the Finnish city are being reinvented into sleek destinations for cocktails, and Goldfish is up there as one of the best that Helsinki has to offer. Sip on a cocktail inspired by the elements. Depending on your mood and what you have planned for the night ahead, choose a drink themed after earth, air, fire or water. The likes of the ‘Shape of the Water’ (champagne and pomegranate sorbet) makes for an elegant treat, whereas the ‘Fireball 10’ (seedlip, spices and Scandinavian liquor – glogg) packs a real punch.
In the midst of the busy city, take a moment of quiet reflection in the Silent Chapel. Welcome to people of all religions, the chapel embraces what spirituality is all about: providing a holy space that’s home to everyone.